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New Video presents
Weird U.S.: Volume III (2005)

Mark Sceurman: Today, the spirit of rebellion is a trait that's deeply woven in the American fabric.
Mark Moran: But what distinguishes a true rebel from just another loud-mouthed rabblerouser who's full of hot air?



Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 28, 2006

Stars: Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman
Director: Vincent Kralyevich

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 733961745146
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BB-B D-

DVD Review

Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman have spent 12 years probing the weirdness of their home state of New Jersey, publishing a local magazine documenting the little known, strange, and bizarre that they have investigated and unearthed. This eventually morphed into a series of books tracing the weirdness found in other states, and that eventually led to this wonderfully offbeat History Channel series hosted by Moran and Sceurman.

Each one-hour episode has the pair bouncing around the country, loosely following a theme, covering three to five different weird stories that they attempt to uncover the truth about. Instead of a season set, these are single-disc compilation releases, each containing just two episodes. Each episode runs just under 44 minutes without commercials, and Volume III investigates crime, punishment and rebellion, focusing on a sort of left-of-center history lesson. The biggest negative, however, is that there seems to be some padding to stretch the material to 45 minutes, and the habit of recapping after each commercial break is even more distractingly evident on the DVD.

Rebels and Traitors looks at the bold Joshua Norton, a man who can claim to being American's only emperor and then hoists the skull-and-crossbones to look at the misunderstood pirate rebel Blackbeard, and the hunt for his decapitated head. But there's a fine line between rebellion and treason as the connective thread, as witnessed by the attempted presidential coup by decorated war hero Smedley Butler, but there's a decidedly more fun atmosphere of the partying Conch Republic, and the secession of Key West from the United States. Now that's a party.

The second episode is Crimes and Punishment, and examines some of the more archaic and unusual methods of incarceration and, you guessed it, punishment. Moran and Sceurman take a tour of a Texas prison museum, including the obligatory electric chair, "Old Sparky,"and a visit to America's first penitentiary in Philadelphia. But few things compare to the harsh goings-on in the minimum-security prison in Tent City, Arizona, where mandatory pink underwear are the order of the day. It's an outdoor prison, populated with tents, and if the 113-degree temperatures and two meager meals a day weren't enough, it's the colorful underthings all the inhabitants have to wear.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Both episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Colors are generally clean and bright for the interviews, but some of the on location segments appear a little oversaturated. The purposeful color corrected or grainy stock footage used in between these on location segments varies in detail levels, though any image variations seem intentional.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in 2.0 stereo, and the presentation delivers clear, hiss-free narration. Basic, but solid.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras to be found, unless you still consider "interactive menus" and "scene selection" as supplements, as the backcover does.

Each episode is split into six chapters.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

In Volume III it's time for crime, punishment and rebellion, from chain gangs, Blackbeard, Bonnie and Clyde, and the Emperor of the United States (and it's not George W).

 


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